Why "Running with Bunions"?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

On Autism

Sensory Experience
On November 30, 2015, Wonder Boy received the following diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder with Global Developmental Delay, including Expressive and Receptive Language Disorder, level 3, requiring "very substantial support" (a diagnostic term) in all areas.

Translation: at nearly 5 years old, virtually all of Wonder Boy's abilities were delayed; he met no developmental milestones for a child his age. He neither understood language spoken to him, nor could he express himself to others.

While Amaze Girl rose from her early childhood with focus and attention challenges, she does not have diagnosed autism.

What's Autism?

Autism is characterized by differences. In the way a person walks, talks, moves, thinks. Bodily function, expression of ideas, sensory, social and psychological need, physical and emotional ability.

Differences – compared to what is what is typical and expected – in the way brains work.

There's no one kind of autism because there are a multitude – a spectrum – of potential combinations of differences that result when neurons fire in unexpected ways.

"Autism…refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication…"
-Autism Speaks

What Causes Autism?

Genetics? Environment? Gluten? Sensory deprivation? Abuse, neglect? Lead exposure, childhood immunizations, mother-didn't-eat-right-take-prenatal-vitamins-go-to-the-doctor? All of the above?

A recent study indicates brains of some people with autism may be atypically layered. The unique structuring causes neurons to appear in unexpected places, requiring unconventional neural pathways to accomplish work. Evidence suggests that cranial reformations may happen as far back as the second trimester of pregnancy.
(-Live Science)

What causes the brain's differences and alters neuron function - including what lead does to developing brains that result in autism - is not fully understood.

Whatever the cause, experts agree that intervention is most successful if it begins before a child is 3 years old, when brains are young and neurons nimble.

Diagnosing Autism

Autism is usually identified by a child's physician at his well child check-up before he is 3 years old.

The child is referred to a facility where behaviors are evaluated by a team of professionals: psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech and occupational therapists. Competencies are compared to same aged, typically developing children:

1. Social/emotional: verbal and nonverbal communication, eye contact, facial expressions, interaction, functional abilities.

2. Patterns of behavior: ability to transition, response to sensory input, restricted interests, rigid thinking patterns, repetitive movements, preoccupations.

3. Onset should occur during early development and cause significant functional difficulties not better explained by another concern.
-Link to full criteria

Potential and Possibility

Wonder Boy began daily therapy when he was 5 years old. Today, he has words. Uses the potty, dresses himself. Identifies letters and numbers. Writes his name.

Amaze Girl reads, writes, computes and revels in sensory and educational experiences.

Both children attend school.

There's much we don't know about how our gray matter works. Can the brain overcome injury and neglect? If properly fed, watered and energetically stimulated, will the brain regenerate and repair?

Maybe. It's possible. Yes.

Taking the brain for a walk

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